Sunday, 27 May 2012

Checkpoint 2 - The Ponies

First, I must apologize - my comments got their first dose of spam. I guess it was only a matter of time, what with the references to porno and hot plate and what have you.  Sorry about that to anyone who clicked and got redirected to sites focused on riding things other than horses. 

If it is any consellation to you, I did click the offending link while using my company laptop, and so will now probably spend Monday in HR trying to explain my passion for blind porno dressage, and how it will in no way interfere with my ability to do my job in an effective manner.

I am still going to leave comments open, partly just because I am too lazy to vet them all before publishing, and also because I know it is just not as satisfying to post a comment without being able to see your witty banter up on the screen immediately.  Should things turn ugly again, I will reconsider.

Anyway, back to the story. Where was I... oh yes, the ponies.

Checkpoint 2 - The Ponies

Now I know that after my bad experience with the Platypus and my rants regarding the pathetic state of the hunter pony world, some of you probably think I have some bile spewing hate vendetta going on against ponies in general. 

Seriously, I don't at all.  I love ponies. 

Ponies are, for the most part, the cynical curmudgeons of the equine world.

If I was an equine being, I would be a pony.  Not only because I am short, but because I have the right outlook towards work.  My motto at more than one of my many jobs has definitely been "I will do it, and do it well, but don't expect a fucking smile", and this pretty much sums up the attitude of many ponies as well.  If aliens came to earth and began gathering humans for personal use on their home planet, I think this might be my schtick. 

(Which brings to mind a particularly awkward moment with fellow graduate students, while doing my Masters.

A practical minded Nigerian PhD candidate, fresh off the plane and eager to make friends by way of interesting and thought provoking conversations, was hypothesizing about each of our relative values should aliens come to earth to harvest us for assorted human breeding programs back on their home planet.  Being large and sturdy, he assumed he would be chosen for meat or draft purposes.  I am small, but muscular - he felt I might be suited for meat production as well, especially if resources did not support the growth of larger framed animals.  All seemed very logical to me. 

However things turned ugly when he eyeballed another female grad student and announced to the group "if mammary size is genetically linked to lactation potential - you will most certainly not be chosen for milk production.  And you would not be good to eat.  You had better hope for "pet".  

Let's just say she wasn't happy with his assessment, and I had to spend some time with him afterwards explaining the North American fixation with breast size or lack thereof). 

If shit flows downhill, as is often quoted, the very best ponies are situated right at the bottom of this hill, mouths open, ready to receive the very worst that this world has to offer - beginner children riders.

At least beginner adult riders typicallly know that they suck.  And, fear and self preservation generally keeps them from doing anything too extreme with their patient school horse mounts.  If they can trot over 3 poles and an X in an uneventful fashion, they are happy as clams, and eternally grateful to these horses for not trying to kill them.  Because as adults, we know that if they decided to do so, they undoubtedly could.

Nine year olds on ponies, especially in today's world of entitled "everyone's a winner baby" parenting style - feel they are entitled to not die. Regardless of what it is they as riders do, or don't do, while riding around on the automatrons they often consider their ponies to be.  And so as they spank, crank, yank, ride over hill, dale... the gold standard of ponies is one who will suck all of it up and come back for more.  Who can blame them for having surly looks on their faces, or being generally cantankerous and ill tempered. 

Should a pony go renegade and say "thanks, but I'd rather not..."  well, their future career choices are pretty limited.  With a horse, you could potentially find a talented adult who would patiently engage in a debate with the horse regarding pros/cons for years to come (trying chiro, accupuncture, new saddle, reiki etc. all along the way) and work tirelessly to eventually find a middle ground.  Not so much with ponies - parents have no time for this, children are only short for so long.  If the pony can't suck up the terrible riding to some degree, their future is pretty bleak - the child will outgrow them and move on to obsessing about Justin Beiber long before they actually learn how to ride well enough to deal with any problems.  And no one wants to buy someone else's problem pony. 

I think if you want to see how truly saintly the best ponies are - you  have to stop by a Prince Philip Games competition some day.  At least the pretty barbie doll ponies with "big steps" and "tight knees" wind up in the hunter ring where sure, they have to jump stuff and do lead changes, but really the gig is pretty good. 

At PPG - you will see where the ugly, relatively unskilled, yet unbelieveably patient ones wind up.  It is kind of like watching the meth addicted, street walking hookers of the equine world in action - they are willing and functional at what they do, even if what they do is nasty, hard on the eyes and entirely lacking in any glamour.  You want to hang off of my mane with your foot on my ass while I gallop around because you can't actually vault your lumpy 11 year old butt up 13 hands - be my guest.  Whack me in the head with a flag or pole with a wooden fish on the end?  Why not.  Yank on my face until I come to a sliding stop so you can drop random vegetables into a bucket - sounds fun.  They do it because they have to do it, because there is no other choice.  The fact that they put up with any of it at all is truly incredible.

So, long story short - really, I have an incredible amount of respect for ponies, because the deck is really stacked against them.  They are damned if they are good, damned if they aren't.

The ponies in the Land of Lilliput were New Forest Ponies, and this was actually quite appealing to me.  Our family had owned a New Forest Pony when I was young.  He was not "my" pony, but my sister's, and for those of you who happen to know both of us, this was fitting. 

My own pony was an Arab / Hackney cross, who was hot, freaky, opinionated and likely to stomp off in a huff at the slightest provocation.  Like me.

The New Forest Pony was a more Spicoli like in his demeanor - unflappable, chilled out, and relatively oblivious to the world about him.  More like my sister.  He just trucked along, kept on keeping on, and got the job done.  Dum-de-dum....Although this is not at all what I look for in a horse long term, this sort of "whatevah", bring it on personality seemed like it might be a good fit for my current situation.  I was feeling mentally challenged enough

So I was pretty optimistic based on my perception of the breed.

(What?  n=1?  And so it means nothing?  Seriously people, get on board. This is the Internet, and so you should totally respect and agree with my anecdotal evidence, giving it as much clout as you would if the results were from a clinical trial at a major university, published in a leading edge, peer reviewed journal).

And in fact - this is pretty much what I found.  There was 3 solid and athletic medium ponies for me to choose from, depending on the lesson of the day.  None of them were "hunter ring" Barbie dolls, or brain dead children's ponies - they were more the type which you would feel entirely confident heading out on a cross country course with - functional, bold, and forward.  All were actually eventers, not dressage ponies per se, but that meant they had all put in some half decent dressage tests somewhere along the way, in front of real people and an actual judge, and weren't just classical legends in their owners minds and backyards.

Yes, this could definitely work out fine.

Now how about that coach...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Dressage in the land of Lilliput

Then, one day I got a tip from someone – I forget who – that a hot “Young Rider” who had gone abroad to train with some Dressage foreigners that I have never heard of (but, hey , whatever – does it matter?  Being foreign, they must be superior to anything local, it goes without saying, right?) was returning to these here parts to begin her own program.
A local barn would be her base – and, wait for it, wait for it… the even more exciting news was that they had experienced dressage horses I could use for lessons.  Exciting, no?
Err.. well – that was not entirely accurate.  On further investigation, they actually had dressage ponies.  Experienced up to 2nd level.
Now don't panic.  This was not a bad thing.  Finally all of those years of looking at group photos and wondering who the pathetically short person standing beside her statuesque friends was (and realizing with some horror that it was, in fact, me) were about to pay off.  Bring on the ponies, hold the roller skates.  It could just work.
And so, I set up a lesson and off I went to investigate the potential of experiencing dressage in the Land of Lilliput.  
Oh Curmudgon… will this be the magical place where the impossible triad of decent digs, a decent coach and a horse to take lessons on that is not half dead actually coagulate together?
Well – kind of.
Checkpoint 1:  The facility 
The barn was…uh…rustic. 
Especially after Muddy View Acres, where everything was brand-spanking new, walking into a typical “built 30 years ago with the battle scars to prove it” type facility does underwhelm you a bit.  Which makes no sense at all.  Just like many other things in the horse industry.

Now - really - barns are like everything else in life, aren’t they. 
The people in charge of deciding what’s hot, what’s not, have to keep moving the target.  Who would want to move to fabulous NEW barns, for fabulous NEW prices - if really nothing had changed.  So, we must poo-pooh the old, embrace the new, and crack open the wallets.  If we really loved our horses, we would.  Right? 
Although it is hard to put in words what exactly it is that makes a barn look tired and dated - there is something - you just know it when you see it.   And it is not simply a factor of time in and of itself.  It is an accumulation of little trendy stylistic things that all add up to say... yikes...this is not a barn of the new millenium.  It is kind of like Jessica Simpson in mom jeans.  Not hot.  You just know it.  How?  You

Make fun of my jeans all you want, I still have one hell of a nice rack!  Take that, biatches!

And so just like concert shirts with white bodies and black arms, or mullets - there are stable design nuances that were fine and  hip and hot and trendy 30 years ago…  But now – even if you were dropped from a time machine into a stable of the 70’s, even in its hottest, hippest, trendiest heyday, even when it was brand spanking new… you would just KNOW it was a stable of the 70’s.  

Think back to the first barn you ever took lessons or boarded at.  Remember how excited you were!  Every horse was beautiful, and the place was palatial.  Right?
Remember stalls with that 1 inch mesh stuff stapled into the openings on the doors and fronts?  Now – ghetto. 
Deep brown creosote everything – ghetto. 
Ahh, the smell takes me back...I can almost feel the skin peeling off of my hands as I imagine painting all of the chew marks on the stall walls

10 x 10 stalls?  Once the norm.. now – ghetto (this one is probably due to the fact that a horse that is under 16 hands high is now considered by many to be – ghetto). 
Arenas with small windows made out of that corrugated see-thru green plastic stuff – chewed up wood fencing instead of electrobraid – plain plywood kickboards – grooming in crossties instead of a specially designed grooming cubbyhole – no heated wash stall – dusty little viewing rooms with smeary plexiglass windows and chairs too low to sit in and actually see out at the same time, and yellowy piles of “the Corinthian” dating back to 1979 (what? Sympatico is DEAD?) - incandescent bulbs encased in little cages to prevent breakage so your horse won’t electrocute himself when he goes bananas in the crossties (since he is not in a special grooming cubbyhole) and whacks his head into them - all now considered to the signs of a horribly, pathetically old-school ghetto stables. 
(I am kind of in the swing of things now, but there was most definitely a point when I got back into riding where I would go to a new barn, and be paralyzed with fear that I will do something unacceptably 70’s, and wind up having some bitchy blogger making fun of me behind my back).
And so this was exactly the vibe I was getting as I toured Land of Lilliput Stables.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with anything I saw there.  If the year was 1980.  Or if I focused solely on function over form, which would be the logical thing to do. 
The arena was a coverall, and I must admit, they are not my favourites, for a lot of reasons, none of them have to do strictly with functionality, but instead are based entirely on the vibe you get from coveralls.  Which is stupid – but true.  They are flappy and noisy, and make that freaky ziiipppp sound when the snow falls off them.  Sure, on a sunny winter day once in a while, they heat up and you can wear a T-shirt while riding (and feel guilty as your horse melts in a pool of winter coat hair and sweat).  As is usual with coveralls – it was not actually attached to the barn, which meant you had to walk through some assortment of mud / slush / ice to get to it for a large portion of the year. 
But there were definitely positives as well – the barn was owned by former farmers (need I say more).  Former farmers that now worked for a fencing company – so although the paddocks weren’t huge, they were safe.  The stalls were of average size, with rubber mats and fresh clean bedding (oh, how novel!), and the fact that each one had a different door design could be interpreted as…charming.  I think.  The hay was clean, green and dust free.  The footing in the coverall was firm and sandy, not the typical fluffy brown stuff which is composed of who knows what ... but really, if you have to choose, firm is better than deep and suspensory sucking.  And for the care they were promising to provide (and I was giving the benefit of the doubt here, and assuming they would deliver) the board was insanely cheap. 
To summarize… I was not sold on the facility..  But for no reason relating to anything other than pure unadulterated cosmetics.  It looked safe and comfortable.  Homey even.
Come on Curmudgeon.  Get over yourself!  Ms. V doesn’t care about the aesthetic appeal of her digs.  If she is warm, dry, and not sleeping on concrete, who cares if the cats outnumber the horses here by at least 57. 
For once you speak the truth, italics person.  This is true.  Very true.  If I were blind, I would have been totally pumped about the place.  So, I put my snobbery aside, and soldiered on.  Let’s try the lesson. 

(Again, I thank whoever it is that I am supposed to thank to prevent enternal damnation that I am not single and internet dating, because I am sure that is a whole new dimension of underwhelming, but in the same general ballpark).

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sunshine. Lollipops. Rainbows. Meltdowns. Be sure to experience them all.

So... What are you saying, Dressage Curmudgeon... if I don't spend time and money in a BNT barn, I won't know what pornography is?  That is ridiculous.  I can always look on the internet and see many examples...

You know, that is actually a really good question.  For sure, regardless of what your activity may happen to be, from Dressage to Extreme Ironing, there are many more examples and resources available to you on the internet now, versus back in 2004, and my connection is actually fast enough that I can watch them if I get the urge.

He is twisting through his body and not keeping his weight centred.  He will really need to  go back to basics to correct these position flaws if he hopes to advance up the levels. 

Nothing needs to be a mystery or a misunderstanding any more these days.

(Case in point - when a single male co-worker once told me he was having difficulty finding the right woman, I asked some "open ended" questions to find out more and see if maybe I could help.  The "right woman" apparently had to be into "hot plating".  I commiserated, told him to hang in there, and thought to myself, yes, it would be hard to find a woman who wanted to live life without owning a real stove.  However surely the right girl would see past this.  Eventually she could convince him that they should visit Leon's together, and would skip out blissfully as the owners of a new range.

That was then, this is now.  Thanks to Urban Dictionary, I now realize that he will undoubtedly die alone, masturbating in front of his computer, while I feel slightly kinky every time I wrap leftovers in Saran).

Where was I...

Oh yah.  Well it is most certainly easier to find examples of fabulous dressage.  Case in point - I hope you all got a chance to watch the video of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro on TopDressage before it went poof.  (There is still a YouTube filmed-from-a-computer-screen version that you can watch if you aren't prone to seasickness) As far as I can tell, even the militant competitive dressage haters should like this pair.  (Disclaimer:  Haven't looked on UDBB yet, but I am going to assume even the totally crazy Classical gals are on side.  But I have been wrong before).

The other great thing about seeing all of the top riders / horse combos on the internet - and a bit of googling can find you an example of just about anyone - is that you do start to get a feeling for the fact that yes, top horses must be incredibly athletic, fabulous movers.  However - really, the limits within this description are quite wide - compare Totilas (extravagant freak of nature), Fuego (non-warmblood kicking butt), Pop Art (non-extravagant still in the game via precise riding) etc.

So it is easy to see the very top of the sport.

Depending on where you live - you can probably also venture out and visit some local dressage shows, and see a cornucopia of different things there.  Some good.  Some, most certainly not.

And you can, of course, scribe.

Hi Barb and John!  Porky told me you are looking for scribes!  Sign me up!

The problem with shows is that you don't get a chance to really see how the glorious FEI horses once upon a time started off floating on down the Nile towards the mythical dressage pyramids.  You see them only at the end of the story.

And - I am about to share with you one of the GREAT REVELATIONS that did not dawn on me until about half-way through my dressage journey.  Maybe I am just totally dense, and you all already know this (but if you are a catty heckler who wants to post in the comments that I am a clueless idiot for not realizing this anyways, please, be my guest.  Don't let me take away your fun).

Top GP riders virtually NEVER show lower levels on their hot, up and coming young horses. 

Yah, yah, sure.  There are exceptions.  But for the most part - if you see a top rider showing a lower level - it is most likely not a horse that anyone expects to make it to GP.  It is probably a dull tempered sale horse - one they have brought in from Europe specifically to flip to a starry eyed adult amateur, or one that they have decided is not worth spending time on, since it won't make it to the end.  Or the horse is actually a 12 year old stopper ex-hunter that they are trying to move for a friend.  Alternatively, they might be putting in some remedial ring time on a surly 17 year old, 17 hh tank that knows who means business and who doesn't, and therefore has frustrated the living hell out of their 55 year old, 100 lb. soaking wet adult am owner.

You might luck out and catch an up and comer being shown just to get a little bit of ring mileage before the 4 or 5 year old classes so they don't have a full on meltdown when the big day comes.  But this is kind of like spotting sasquatch - you need to be in the right place, right time (and apparently without a camera phone).

So, when perusing the typical show (in these here parts, in any case) you are left with the cream of the crop at the FEI levels, and some sort of coffee-mate amalgamation of who-knows-what sediment from there on down.  Not a nice even cross-section of beautiful horses, as you move from one ring to the next looking at the different levels, as you might expect.

Which is kind of disappointing as an onlooker.  Or - actually, as an onlooker new to the sport of dressage - just really fricking confusing.  You find yourself wandering the showgrounds, wondering "How on Earth does THIS motley group of horses morph into THAT in the next two years?"

Answer - it probably doesn't.

Dressage Curmudgeon, you just aren't trying hard enough.  YouTube is there for us... did you not watch that fabulous Steffen Peters / Janet Foy Symposium!  Or pay a little for there are lots of nice young horses there....

Yahhh, sort of.  Maybe.  Kind of.

But it is still not the same as immersing yourself in the day to day riding at a barn with a mixed bag of everything, all trying to move somewhere in a forward direction.  You need to see the good, yes - but also the bad and the ugly.  There aren't a lot of meltdowns on (yes, I am a subscriber).  Everything is pretty sunny and nice, and neatly sanitized.

Which in some ways, only makes actual life harder, and more confusing, as you are sweating it out dealing with reality.

So, my advice to everyone would be - find yourself some way, some day, to spend time at a good barn.  Even one month of full training would help.  Will it make a big difference to your horse - maybe not.  But once you have paid the price of admission to the show - spend as much time there watching EVERYONE ride as you can (good, bad, awful), and this will make a big difference to your understanding of  what you are going to have to do to move up the levels, if that is your goal.  Sit down (try to find the seat nowhere near the insecure blabbermouth woman that insists on letting you know why everything she does is bigger and better than whatever it is you are doing - unfortunately the empty seats are probably next to her), shut up, and watch.

Seriously - it will be worth it.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Quiz: What do bad dressage and hard core pornography have in common?

As some of you noticed, I did break down and sign up for a username at COTH - I was toying with the idea of posting some stuff there, but then I realized that now that summer is here, I don't even have time to write my blog, let alone weigh in on whether or not I think Caesar is a slimebag based solely on reading the propaganda of others.  The lawn here is up to my knees and the place looks like a crack house - perhaps I should consider mowing it, instead of doing either of these two things.  

However I did get a few PMs welcoming me to COTH, and a reminder that BB's are not all evil - without them, it would be difficult to do really any research on local nutbars.  Which is true.  They are the best place to find horse related services, and I do still use them for this. 

And of course, that is where I started my search for Ms.V's new barn.  

In fact, I found a seemingly perfect match - almost immediately! - that would have been out of the question based on geography in the past, but that I just could have pulled off now with my new job's location...  Ms. Saurputz Stables.

A highly prolific poster on various boards wrote somewhere along the line that her fabulous coach Ms. Saurputz - who was apparently a GP rider, and had schoolmasters - was hosting a clinic at her farm with a short listed rider in the near future. Now how perfect is that!  I could meet the coach, see the farm, she worked with other coaches which should mean she is current, even though she is apparently really old...

The missing piece of the puzzle was that I would like to see her actually teach before I committed too far to the deal - so, I contacted Prolific Poster and asked her if I could come and watch one of her lessons.  Sure!  No problem.  She didn't actually board with Ms. Saurputz, however she was at another local barn so I could drop by, watch a lesson with her, then check out the the other facility when I went to audit the clinic.  Sounds great.

I called up Ms. Saurputz, had a long discussion (she was a farmer!  With cattle!  I was confident the care would be great!) and agreed to meet her at her student's lesson.  Wow, that was easy.  So far so good. 

When the day came - there was a snowstorm.  Which I should know by now means - stay home, Curmudgeon.  But I didn't, I had told these people I would be in attendance, and so I would damn well be there.  This was prior to the days of "everyone on earth has a cellphone" so once you headed out the door - well, you just kept on trucking and hoped for the best.  

Which kind of happened, actually - Ms. Saurputz never showed up.  Too snowy.  So, instead of seeing a lesson as planned, I got to see the student ride all on her own.  


As much as I make fun of my time spent at Frau Trainerin's stable, in fact I did come away after my brief 6 weeks or whatever it was with some very valuable information - it was not really wasted money.  

First, I learned that I can do a chin-up if peer pressure is great enough, and I have actually done a few now just to impress people here and there.  (There is usually alcohol involved). The most important take away message was the spot-on advice I was given regarding my "dressage prospect".  This, of course lead me to return the Platypus to the land of the hunter ponies, where he could live out his days being sour and opinionated and no one would really notice, since it is kind of de rigueur for the gig.  

But lastly - and very importantly, although  I didn't know it yet at the time -  spending this six weeks watching beautiful horses ridden beautifully gave me an important piece of the puzzle that I was missing. 

I had established the foundation I required to determine whether or not someone's version of dressage - really - sucked. 

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["dressage that really sucks"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the riding involved in this case most certainly - really - sucked*.

Aye Carumba. Now THAT is bad dressage.

Which left me in that awkward position that we have all been in (no, don't worry, not heading to the bedroom here) where someone in the horsey world is showing off their prowess to you (no, don't worry, not heading to the bedroom here either, this is not a H/J blog discussing coaches and their teenage girl students), and you are forced to watch with a smile, because really, they are doing you a favour, and you asked them to help, and it will be over soon, just grit your teeth and think of England.  Or Holland.  Or someplace where the riding doesn't suck.  

Annnyways... when it was all over, I thanked Prolific Poster - who was very nice, loved her sweet little horse to pieces, and left me feeling very badly that I thought she sucked (especially since she was so prolifically posting about her riding, which did not align with reality whatsoever - surprise!).  But really - who cares.  As long as she is happy, the horse is happy, healthy - whatever.  I was still going to go to watch the clinic, and check out the coach more carefully.  Who knows, maybe she drove home from every lesson with Prolific Poster wanting to claw out her burning eyes.  

The clinic was - fine.  The clinician was excellent - a very professional and earnest woman, about my age, who struggled through three or four beginner lessons, working on exactly the right things.  Forward.  Bend.  Reaction to the aids.  I would die of boredom if forced to watch this clinic today, but it was spot on for the riders in question and really, for me, at the time.  

However - it was difficult to really hear.  Or appreciate.  Because Ms. Saurputz WOULD NOT SHUT THE FUCK UP.  Because nothing is more difficult for a coach than seeing someone who actually knows what they are doing tell their students... that they don't have a foggy clue of the very basics of dressage.  A non-stop stream of verbal diarrhea came from the woman's mouth, commenting on absolutely everything that the clinician suggested.  Totally rational suggestions that were somehow entirely ludicrous in Ms. Saurputz's eyes.  And she was attacking not only the clinician - but more embarrassingly, her students - I guess just so the auditors were all very clear on the fact that it wasn't HER fault that they couldn't ride forward into contact on a 20m circle.  It was skin-crawlingly awkward.  

Pfft.  Yah, see if student X can do that with her nag.   Hmmpth.  Yah, that might work if student Y's ass was smaller than her horse's (this was my very favourite comment).  Fssst... as if I haven't tried THAT a thousand times with her - has she looked at the horse?  Huhhuh... I should have KNOWN she wasn't classical...what the hell is she trying to do?  

I thought more about England that week than I had ever before at any time in my life.  

The donuts were good.  And it wasn't cold.   So really,  the clinic was a success.

Well, luckily, I walked away from the whole investigative affair unscathed, my horse still at MVA, and the worst of it all was just that if I ever ran into Prolific Poster again in real life, I would have to make up some gracious story regarding my decision not to ride with the raging bitch who was Ms. Saurputz.  What are the chances of that happening though, eh?

Since then, Ms. Saurputz has hosted many clinics, none of which I have attended, and none of which seem to be by short listed mainstream local riders.  Instead, she focuses on... (anyone - anyone?)... that's right!  There are a lot of wool caps involved.  

Because really, who wants to ride with a local, current GP rider who expects your horse to go forward and bend and boring things like that... when you can ride with an imported legend who thinks you are exceptional in every way, are riding verrrry classically, thanks for your money, and gives you a kissy kiss before saying "see you next year, sucka!".  

Pffft, Yah, that makes way more sense.  

*shamelessly plagiarized

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there... but no need to rush.

Wow, am I ever feeling calf jacked.

No, not really.  But I didn't get a chance to use this today in conversation, and I promised I would.  Tomorrow is another day, I will try again to do it properly.

Thanks Mom

So, off I went in search of the perfect boarding / lesson horse / dressage coach set-up.

I did have a few things working in my favour that were not present when I initially started my dressage oddesy.

1.  I had a new job, in a new location.  So whereas I had been looking to the West - now I would be looking to the East.  A whole new hemisphere of nutcases was waiting out there for me to investigate.  Hmm, maybe this wasn't actually "in my favour".  But it was different, in any case.

2.  I did have my own 3 year old now - with potential.  And by potential, I mean - potential for the right, motivated coach to earn a decent amount of cash off me for many years to come, as we slogged on up the levels.  A horse that might actually be nice enough for them to show too, and not a public embarrassment as the cantankerous, opinionated, and screamingly Arabian Platypus would have been. 

3.  I was also ready to move to - wherever.  I wasn't trying to find a travelling coach willing to venture into a H/J land stable with an arena full of jumps and wig-waggy riders trying to show off their "dressage" expertise to them.

So finding motivated help should have, in theory, been easier than before. 

The real sticking point in this whole affair was of course, the "finding the lesson horse" part.  This was of critical importance to me for more than one reason.  Ms. V was just turning 3, and although I did hope to get her back under saddle fairly soon, there would be a good six months of fairly boring, short rides ahead.

Oh so important rides, Dressage Curmudgeon.  Possibly the most important rides of all.  As the Masters correctly reminded us, you cannot undo, what you do, 

And skidoo, pile of dog doo..yah, yah, I know, whatever.  Yes, really important stuff, no doubt.  However - for my sanity, I needed something else less walk/trot/halt/doze to enjoy and improve on. I wanted to be a better rider when she really got rolling, not just an older, stiffer, more coated in rust rider, who still couldn't sit the trot.

Also for her safety - I wanted something else equine for my new dressage coach (whoever that would be) to teach me on, so there would be no temptation (on her part or mine) to start pushing the two of us faster or farther than we really should have been going at any given time.

Yes, I knew from the bulletin boards that the next thing to fear, more than fear itself (except maybe monkeys with razorblades)... is RUSHING YOUR HORSE.

"RUSHING YOUR HORSE" did not only entail whether you climbed aboard too soon or not.  The issue just kept on going.  On and on.  You can be accused of "rushing" your horse at any time. There are actually people out there that think that schooling GP just as the horse is retiring is timing things juuuussst about right.  Your horse can piaffe right on up to the hole the backhoe has dug just for him, then...Kablam!

What sort of things might lead those around you to gossip behind your back (or on bulletin boards) and say that you are... RUSHING YOUR HORSE.

Well, it is quite clear that you are most likely to be accused of "RUSHING YOUR HORSE" by anyone with a horse that is older, yet further behind in their training than your horse is. They might share their opinion on the subject with you by phrasing it something like this... "Oh, you are starting half-steps with Stormy, how nice.  I am focusing on training Tortoisa correctly".  (Try not to punch them in the face.  If you can).

If your horse ever shows any sign of resistance - to anything - there is probably someone watching you from the sidelines who thinks you are ... RUSHING YOUR HORSE.  (Alternative therapies often help in these cases that seem - on the surface - to stem from resistance.  I suggest poking an accupuncture needle adorned with a flaming marshmallow in the onlooker's eye.  No see - no problem). 

Or...say there is something that your horse just naturally does well, due to genetics or conformation, aided by exceptional riding and starting, and so the trainer chooses to go ahead and play with whatever this equine physical ability happens to be now and then.  Maybe some lengthen steps in trot.  Or some piaffe in hand.  Look out!  According to the railbirds, whether they are actually present and know you, or are just kicking back and blowing time surfing youtube on a rainy may very well be ... RUSHING YOUR HORSE.

This is the strangest one.  If you saw a young child with exceptional reading skills enjoying a pithy tome, you wouldn't slap the book out of their hands and say "NO!  GET BACK TO DICK AND JANE!  NO TOLSTOY FOR YOU!"  You would be amazed, yet depressed at the same time as you thought of your own child who can't even crap in a toilet yet, let alone relax and enjoy a good read while doing so. would push your green envy aside, and still encourage the precocious little freak of nature to keep on enjoying what will eventually lead him or her to become a more rounded, better person. 

Wow, this is really boring.
But when it comes to horses.. at any given time, you can see videos or pics of the most remarkable animals ever foal jacked (thanks read for comprehension woman!),  horses that barely seem to be products of equine genetics present on the planet earth, doing incredible, beautiful, and to them, natural things - followed by comments from people who themselves are riding downhill QH's (or whatever - insert your favourite non-purpose bred for dressage equine here), slamming the owners of the heavenly horses for "rushing" them, for their own evil pleasure and profits, using trick riding, rollkur, blah blah. Whatever.

Regardless of how stupid this seems now... I did worry about it at the time.  Ha ha, it is funny really, isn't it.  Please! Stop horse, stop!  You are moving up the levels just tooo quickly!  Everything seems soooo easy, it must be wrong!  Stop floating around in this effortless passage!  Waahh!

If only life were really like that, eh?